Week 12-Final Project-Earthquake

Earthquakes’ train

The tremor briefly ripples desiccated dirt on the road in parallel lines. Stillness follows. A starling whistles once, then again. Wind blows west and rustles the prairie grass. Chiseled men relax. They return to dig and pick apart the hardened earth with steel pickaxes. Dust clouds fills nostrils and mouths. Sweat pours down their chins. Shirts come off. Sun burns.

Look! A flock of starlings abruptly lift westward from telephone wire. Active men squeal to a halt. Rumbles tingle toes. The numbing of feet forge waves of fear straight through toughened bodies. Jelly legs and panicked voices forewarn men and beasts: Earth’s westbound train approaches. Nails and hammer drop with a thud. Weak waves of dirt flutter in reply. Hundreds of feet begin to stampede in differing directions.

The other men bustle past me. Their shoulders shove mine as they scramble to safety up the cactus-peppered landscape. I fall in line onto my hands and knee; I press my right ear to the ground. I eat dirt and listen. The deafening roar of vibrating earth intermixes with churning wheels. Not sure how far, now. Teams of horses whinny and rear. I push up and run out of the way one second before hooves crash down where I crawled. My stomach derails with shockwaves of adrenaline.

I howl in helpless pulses. Faces around me melt with fear. The inevitable groundbreaking eruption fuels fights. Fist knock hats off balding heads. The beat of the breaking earth trembles louder. How many of the men here will survive? Will I? I slap my face. Wake up, Sam! Don’t freeze up now. A straight path opens up on my left between the Mill and the General Store. Time slows. Hobos cling to the stores’ wood siding. Slate shingles fracture at their feet. The last water barrel topples. Water ejects in thick rivulets. I run, full speed ahead.

Injun arrows cross country above my head as I steam onward into their path. Undeterred, I grit my teeth and put my head down as I run. Ululations thunder out the sounds of my heart beating in my ears. Windows rattle from the increase frequencies underfoot. Cracks split panes. Men slip and fall. Animals scatter and trample. At the last possible moment, I flatten myself against the side of the General Store as the Injuns scream on by me. I watch. The sheriff crumples into a pile of flesh. Blood-soaked dirt swells.

My mental switch flips. I turn sharply on my spurs and run against the undulating flow of teeming Injuns. A tomahawk sails past my head and into the wood. Twang! Rifle shots mix with metal slicing into skin. Short screams reverberate between the stores’ walls. Bile and disgust rise in my throat. Sweat overtakes tears that leak from the corner of my eyes. I breathe in hard. And I run. Gasping, I emerge from the human tunnel and keep going. The crescendo of disintegrating buildings fuels an explosion of debris and dust behind me. Its force blasts me onto my face.

The Mill’s foundation cracks opens and yawns. Wham! Earth rips apart with the sounds of two freight trains that crash full throttle. The Mill shatters and disappears. Burning fuel sears my nose and lungs. I taste blood and dirt. My legs shiver. I collapse. I wait for the shaking and the screaming to stop. I close my eyes and come to a standstill.

When I regain awaken, my temples are pounding. I get to my feet, swaying woozily. A familiar shape lies on the ground. I limp over to the other man, kneel, and push him over on his back. I look into the face of my youngest brother, Jesse.

Jesse? Is that you? Wake up, brother. Wake up! Come on. We gotta get out of here!

I shake him somethin’ awful.
He doesn’t move.

Week 11 Assignment-Old Swimming Hole

This assignment ends Week 11 of my BerkleeMusic course called “Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.” The criteria for the assignment are:

  1. Pick a collision from this week
  2. Pick a point of view
  3. Pick your verb tenses
  4. 300-500 words
  5. Include the title in your assignment

Other criteria that we’ve used in our assignments include: varying sentence length and varying sentence type (statement, command, conditional, questions). I included those as well.

Collision Title: Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Jewels in an Unlocked Case
Point of View: First Person
Tenses: Present, Future

Week 11 Assignment

The turquoise waters of the old swimming hole tempt me with their alluring glitter. I thrill from the age-old desire to grab forbidden treasures and make a quick escape. Nervousness floods my mouth. My lips tremble. I lick my sweaty upper lip. I slowly look around. First, left; then, right. I see no one. I hear only rippling waters, tweeting sparrows, and reeds hushing each other as the wind sneaks by. With no alarms raised, I pull off my tank top and toss it on the ground besides me. I forcefully breathe in the emerald marsh air. Ah!, I sigh aloud. I pause to listen, but no one answers.

I go over the plan again in my mind: I will lunge my left leg backwards, ready both fists by my side, bounce three times, and take off. I will race down the weathered diving plank as if the police were in pursuit. My imaginary pursuers will reach for me too late as I spring off the edge of the board and into topaz waters. The plank’s thrumming will drown out the coppers’ anguished cries. The anticipation dries my mouth with the taste of mineral salts. Will this work? A red-tailed hawk scolds me: Stop wasting time. Silver fear infuses my nostrils. I rub my shoulders hard to psyche myself up with bravery.

My ears perk up at the pale sounds of far away laughter. Now: do it now, I mentally yell. Adrenaline floods my limbs. I sloppily throw my left leg back, makes fists, and bounce twice. I sprint down the plank at full speed. At the last moment, I launch. As I descend from the high arc, I hold my knees tightly and close my eyes. I slam through the pearl surface. Water roars into my ear canals and penetrates my mouth. I open up completely, kick my legs, and spin until dizzy. I come up with arms outstretched, gasping for air. Approaching laughter is my final warning. If I don’t get out now, I’ll be seen.

I scrabble haltingly out of the pool of liquid jewels. Each falling droplet leaves a semiprecious trail of temporary clues. I roughly yank my tank top back over my head and down onto my torso. I smell hot August sun drying the last aquamarine memories from my skin. Alum, the fool’s gold of the swimming hole, tarts my tongue. I tiptoe into the tourmaline thicket down a rarely used footpath. I periodically turn back to look for the swimming hole. When I no longer see it, I breathe a sigh of relief. I keep walking. I do not stop or look back. My sandals crunch sticks pleasingly. I whistle victory at my easy escape.

Week 11-Day 5-Old Swimming Hole

Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Diamonds in an Unlocked Jewelry Case
The water sparkles invitingly. You reach out tentatively to touch the icy reflection. A million bright lights cut out in angles on the horizon. You squint and blink, pain cutting your eyeballs ever so lightly. Noises! Behind you! You swivel as a thief in rubber-soled shoes, freezing in place. Your eyes scan the scenery for any movement. Only the sound of rippling water greets you. Slowly you reposition yourself and slip your toes in. Pause. No alarms. You put both feet in. Water shimmers around your ankles. No other customers around to dive in. No lifeguard to protect the old swimming hole from intruders. You dive in, the thrill of the chase buoys and propels you. You’re in now. The point of no return. You’re in deep. You rise up for air, gasping. No one’s around to hear you rooting around the place. Yes! You backflip under water. You breaststroke quickly to shore. The place is all yours! No finger prints. You can turn over each piece in the case. Shells, rocks, seaweed, an old boot. It feels good to be bad! No one can catch you now. You fill your heart full of these shiny memories that glitter. Temptation. Fascination. Admiration. You scrabbled out of the pond of liquid jewels, each one dropping off you in a million tiny pieces. You dry off. Water on your skin disappears. Watery fool’s gold. You escape the shop without being seen. No video surveillance to catch your raid. Just dark foot-shaped shadows on the dirt.

Unlocked diamonds in a jewelry case are an old swimming hole 
The pool of glitter temps you. You squint, looking from the corner of your eye. Looking at the shimmer head on? Daggers of pain hit your cornea. Laugher peals out of the swimming hole, temping you to take a dip in its forbidden treasure. Other kids splash and play. They flaunt their watery wealth on their necks. Heads emerge from the black velvety depths. Sun radiates their pearly necks laced with water droplets. The peer pressure bears down on you. You join your partners in crime, digging into the fresh-water case. Joy. Freedom. No parents are around. No lifeguards. Just you, the others, and your wet playground. Water games enrich your day. The unrecorded activities whet your confidence that you will all pull  off the swimming hole heist. Your swimming suit pockets fill with abundance, seep out, then refill. Each fill brings a bigger cache of memories. Adult footsteps crack on sticks. Oh, no. You scramble unevenly to escape your summery den. Hurry! You wave to the others.  Arms and legs brush off the proof of your crime. Towels soak up the blame. Squeals reveal your location. Caught! Your parents see you quickly trying to hide your tracks. Stop! Your father stares. Your mother crosses arms. Feet tap impatience. Come! You hang your head in shame. I’m guilty! Guilty as charged! You lift your head defiantly. Your ear is turned. Ouch! You are dragged away. Your escaped partners watch  from behind bushes as you are dragged away to your punishment: No dinner!

Week 11-Day 4-Western Movie

In this penultimate week to my BerkleeMusic course called, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice’, we are continuing our work with metaphor. We are given an object (Western Movie); we are charged with picking a linking quality (Adventurous) and a comparison object (Team of Arctic Explorers). We are asked to write for 10 minutes about our topic (Western Movie) but using words from our other object (Team of Arctic Explorers) to describe it. Finally, we are asked to flip it around and describe the comparison object (Team of  Arctic Explorers) with words that you might use to describe the given object (Western Movie).

My challenge has been that I slip confusingly back and forth from one to the other. Or I find the given object (Western Movie) uninspiring.  I read some about Western and Western Movie history, pondered on the qualities associated with Western Movies, and chose one.  It bothers me that they seem to sound similar. I was hoping for something more interesting. Oh, well.  Here’s another link in the chain to building better writing skills!

Western Movie -> Adventurous -> Team of Arctic Explorers
The group decided on their basecamp: Ashtonville, Texas. Two mountain ranges of deserted storefronts formed a central, barren corridor. The harsh landscape warned them from further entry. Winds whistled around solitary cacti in cloud bursts, burn-freezing the inside of the cowboys’ ears with icy fury. The men shouted to each other, signaling with their gloved hands where to drive the the stakes of their spurs. The men took out their pickaxes and started to chip away at the desert sands. They sweated inside their Texas uniforms, bandana’s wrapped around their faces to keep out the dust flying into their skin.  With their backs straining under a dark, ominous sky, the cowboys raised their tents. Standing in a single line, the men passed their tent supplies from one to the next.  When their covered wagon was unpacked, the men retreated to their canvas cave in the middle of their Nowheresville. Mark struggled to zip up the door. The others nailed down the edge of the canvas sides that met the dirt where it was not already held down by their supplies. The men sat around in a circle on their sleeping bags, each one silently unwrapping his protective uniform off his wiry, Texan frame. A small leather waterbag was passed around; each man took the smallest sip possible. A coyote howled. Dust balls hit the side of the tent. The men listened.

Team of Arctic Explorers is a Western movie
The men hustled their animals, their tent, and their supplies down the narrow trail between the two Arctic mountain ranges. The band of five brothers roped themselves together in a straight line. The wilderness called around them. Howls. Cries. A scream cut off. The brothers stopped, swore loyalty to one another, and continued on. The eldest, John, led the way. Nothing would stop them. The sheriff promised the research team a reward: bring home the thief. Get paid. Watch as they hang ’em high! Riches. Feeding their families. Telegrams by covered wagons led by Huskies back East. Warm thoughts of money spurred them on. Gold coin. A hot bath. A hot meal, better than these survival granola-flax-peanut butter snack bars. Roar! A bear stood in their way. On the other side, a frozen lake with an opening. The men huddled under their hats and broke away with shots in the air. Pumped! Full of internal fire, hunger, and need, the men circled around the bear. ROAR! The white bear got down on all fours, ready to pounce. From all directions, the men fired down on the white bear. Red covered white in drips and streaks. Hearts raced. John stepped slowly toward the bear, poking it with the end of his rifle. Dead. They removed their hats, held them over their hearts, and thanked God for their good fortune. The men heaved the bear onto the portable cot, and dragged it back to their basecamp. Yes!

Week 11 Day 3-Cobwebs

Hello!

Today’s writing asked us to take the word cobweb, pick a linking quality, find another thing that shared that quality, and then write for 10 minutes about cobwebs in words that illuminate the linking quality with nouns, adjectives, and verbs from the other shared item. Whew! That’s a confusing summary. Here’s what I did — this will make it clearer. Sort of. Sometimes I start writing things that sound better if I was writing in the other direction. That’s the thing I’m learning this week. I can tell – I’m gonna need a looooooooooot of practice.

Cobwebs -> Capture -> Armies
The threads of the cobwebs spread out from one corner of the doorway. In camouflaged, semi-invisible lines, cobwebs hide their numbers from their enemy  flies. They shimmer in the light of the desert day, blending in harmoniously with the oases that tease from a distance. The approaching fly troops mark a straight line, hoping to penetrate the interior by sheer force and numbers. The flies underestimate the threads that belie the power in their ultimate weapon of choice. The stickiness binds the flies legs and abdomens like rope lines suddenly pulled to fell the enemies’ legs. The troops subdue the body of the flies after a few minutes of struggle. The cobweb’s commanding officer drops a line down to where the enemy is being held. He wants to see for himself that the enemy is captured.  The black widow spider pulls out his hands, hold his enemy in his hands, and then pierces the fly with the knife on his machine gun and empties his poison into the fly.  A few seconds later, still and stiff as a wooden plank, the spider binds up the fly, carries him to up to the corner, and leaves him for the troops to snack on. The spider returns to his desk and waits for the call from his troops to parachute in for the final kill once again.

Armies are cobwebs
The troops last assignment: fan out in straight lines to hide their numbers; go from corner to corner and stick together so that no enemy can break through the lines; hold your positions and do not move unless ordered to do so. The men dutifully walked single file until they hit a wall. They turned direction approximately 20 degrees to the right and kept on walking. Meanwhile, the commanding officer sent a second division up towards the top of the hill. One by one, they parachuted on silk threads down until they reached the other division at a second spot along the wooden wall, through which they could not go.  Meeting up, the troops walked inwards, two by two for a brief time, then walked or flew in the opposite direction, until they met back at base camp. All through the night, they worked tirelessly to build their camp. Animals called to each other eerily. The hair on the arms and legs of the troops stood up but they kept going. Towards dawn, their camp complete, the men slept. One kept watch over their camp, on the lookout for any invaders. Finally! An alarm rang out. The men looked up — space invaders! Flies darkened the skies. Legs trembled and hearts raced. How can we tame the incoming beast? Working together the men folded in on the alien more strongly when there was struggle. The men wrapped around the alien and delivered the stunning blow to the gut. All was quiet. A breeze blew. Men wafted gently and then broke away from the camp. The site of the beast overcome sickened them. Some men regrouped, going over their plan. The commander arrived. He surveyed their capture. He pierced its armor and ate quietly, under the hungry eyes of his submission troops.

Week 10 Assignment – Pain is a Teacher

Pain is the teacher who carefully lays out the lesson plan to fit every day of our lives. Her tiny cryptic scrawls cover the blackboard in white. As we file into our seats, the smell of chalks fills our nostrils and covers our tongues, and seeps into our skin.

Pain pop-quizzes us Monday mornings when we are slack with sleep at our desks. Do we really have to do this now? Our Trapper Keepers and textbooks slap closed and land on the floor with a satisfying thud.

Pain surprises us with last-minute room changes posted on our classroom door, two hours after the class ended. There is no room 5-B in our two-story building. As we sit in study hall, we sweat and ring our hands. Our stomachs clench and make us dizzy with anticipation. Did we fail?

Pain tests our critical thinking skills. Turn the wrong way and pain stops us with a smack of the ruler on our backsides, bringing our attention back to the beginning of the lesson plan. Extra credit assignments stack high and sway menacingly over us. Panic rips our guts apart. How will get through this? We pass notes when the teacher isn’t looking. The test paper answers change when we aren’t looking.

After high school, birthdays become our only progress chart. Blind to the future, we grope around in the dark, searching for the light switch but sticking our fingers in the sockets and getting shocked. Our hands stick to the plate from an ungrounded outlet. We pull away, only to be drawn back into the electrical center. Zap! Zot! Muscles tense hard. We pull away hard and try again. Nothing deters us. Into the sockets our fingers go. The intensity holds us hostage and we reflexively shout. Our senses are in sharpest focus. Pain courses through our blood and electrifies us into action. Our hearts or legs get broken.

After the power has been shut off, ee close our eyes hard and pretend our lesson isn’t there. Our discipline disintegrates. We pull out hair in frustration at our lack of learning. Don’t you wish it would end and we could get some peace? We cry: No fair! Our only answer is the squeak of a rusted door that is moved slowly back and forth by the wind.

Week 8-Linking Qualities and Target Ideas

One of the co-writers for the BerkleeMusic class I’m taking likes to torture his students metaphorically. The cad purposely withheld vital information from us last week, just to see us suffer! Ahem. At least, that’s what he says.

In the intro video, Pat teaches the class a trick: When you want to write a metaphor, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What qualities does my object have?
  2. What else has those qualities?

For example, you might choose ‘policeman’ for your first object. Ask yourself: What are the qualities of a policeman? He protects. Then you ask: What else protects? You pick something: flu vaccine. And then you write a sentence that describes how one is like the other. For example:

The policemen vaccinate the city against the symptoms of gangs. 

Voila! Like that, you have an analogy.

More fun tomorrow…..